Before approaching them, it’s always good to do some research about the program offered and their expectations. It will also give you a head-start when making your pitch. Sameer Guglani, a serial entrepreneur with over ten years experience and the co-founder of accelerator The Morpheus, has some words of advice, “Check if the accelerator has full time partners who have been startup entrepreneurs themselves. If yes, it can be extremely valuable to work closely with them for three to four months because they can step into your shoes, truly understand situation and give you the right advice, direction, suggestions etc. Typically accelerators work with a set of companies as a batch, which creates a good environment with lots of peer to peer learning as well as some healthy competition. So look for spaces, which are more open and where different teams sit next to each other. As interactions with other teams can bring the energy, ideas and even lead to collaborations. Also, go for places that are flexible and relaxed in terms of culture, work timings, etc. If they have rigid rules, better to keep away. Most importantly take a look at the deal terms, the equity expectations and cash fees if any charged. Other factors include a friendly community of portfolio founders that you can be a part of and also good relationships with angels, VCs, etc. so that they can introduce you at the right time.”
Wide, open spaces that allow teams to sit together is beneficial, as it encourages healthy competitiveness and interaction. Seen here is the facility at TLabs
Is it easier for Internet projects to get incubated?
Looking at the current scenario, it may seem that startups that leverage the Internet, cloud or mobile have an edge when it comes to acquiring incubation and even receiving funds. While this is partially true, it doesn’t necessarily sum-up the situation. Mahesh Krovvidi, CEO, National Design Business Incubator, National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, agrees that Internet based startups find it easier, but blames it to the business economics of quick returns. He says, “Unfortunately in the country large number of people are involved in developing Internet based products, because it is easier for them. Even form the point of view of the incubators who typically provide support for about two to three years, if they take up a startup with a mechanical product then it’s highly unlikely that the product will hit the market in three years. On the other hand Internet based projects are relatively easy to develop and can be ready to hit the market in two to three years. This is the reason why most incubators are biased towards startups that leverage Internet.”
Another factor that works against them is the typical mind-set where manufacturing companies don’t mind getting a product that is successful abroad, instead of supporting a local entrepreneur who may have developed a similar product. They are more comfortable with a product that they know has been successful, instead of taking a risk with local innovation. And it’s not just the manufacturer, but that’s the kind of mind-set even the consumers have. Mahesh also rues the fact that even the innovators here are rigid, as in they want to do everything themselves instead of partnering with the right manufacturer and getting somebody to market their product. However, he is quick to point out that the situation is changing and is lot better compared to the last ten years. Today, there are investors willing to fund projects and even the number of incubation centres supporting local innovations has increased. There are incubators – most of them funded by the government and hosted by prestigious educational institutes like the IITs, NITs and the IIMs – that cater to the needs of entrepreneurs who are developing products in the technological, mechanical, engineering, medical and scientific field.
Incubators provide all the facilities that you could possibly need. Facility at Society For Innovation And Entrepreneurship, IIT Bombay
Incubation equals success?
Getting a place in the incubation program is definitely a big deal, as it proves that your idea has the potential. Because before you are incubated, your idea is thoroughly evaluated by a group of experts for its validity and its chances of success. But that doesn’t necessarily guarantee success and the biggest reason could be you, as Sameer rightly points out, “At the end of the day the biggest factor in success or failure of a startup is the hardwork and tenacity of the founders. Accelerators or incubators cannot help founders who are themselves not ready to put in the enormous efforts that a startup needs.” Most of the people we spoke to agree that this in fact was the biggest factor that can make or break a startup after being incubated. Of course, there could be other factors at play, which could be beyond the hands of both the incubation centre as well as the entrepreneur, like the market situation or some technical flaw. But that’s very rare owing to the detailed evaluation of your idea that they undertake. Once incubated, you benefit from support, mentorship and funding – things that will allow you to turn your idea into a successful startup. However, what can throw you under the bus is lack of focus and interest on your part.
Some of the Incubators & Accelerators in the country
National Design Business Incubator, NID
Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship, IIM Ahmedabad
Society For Innovation And Entrepreneurship, IIT Bombay
The Startup Centre